— David Maister
While many mid-sized CPA firms strive to be well-managed, many fail short of this ideal state and revert to the loosely managed style at mid-sized law firms which allows for operating silos.When we hear a partner at a mid-sized CPA firm say, “my client” or “my book of business”, the hair on the back of our necks stand up because such a reference is code for a partner who operates in a silo. When CPA firm leadership hears one of their partners say these words, they should be very wary. They should but many are not even though there is a very good chance that, sooner or later, such a partner will financially hurt the firm as he/she holds the firm back from cross selling the client base and institutionalizing client relationships.
Eventually the operating silo mentality hurts a firm’s growth and bottom line. And even though CPA firm partnership agreements contain covenants not to compete provisions in their partnership agreements, with organic growth so difficult to come by, many mid-sized CPA firms are more than happy to bring laterals into their partnerships and, if clients follow (and many often do), fund the liquidating damages due the former firm.So, how does a mid-sized CPA firm develop a culture that clients are “firm clients” and there is no such thing as “my client” and “my book of business” (a virus)? In Our Opinion, it requires a one-firm, entrepreneurial approach to management, which in turn, leads to a well-managed firm. This is easier said than done but, is in fact achievable by those firms with strong and effective leadership. It requires considerable discipline and a strong commitment to partners, staff, clients and the community.
Here are a few examples of a one-firm, entrepreneurial approach to management that creates an environment of “firm clients” and “firm revenues” (the vaccine):
We believe that many small and mid-sized CPA firms fail to achieve enduring success because their leadership lacks the intestinal fortitude that is required to be regarded as a well-managed firm. Without strong leadership, operating silos (a virus) eventually creep into the culture. These operating silos break down the DNA or fabric of a firm. In our view, a one- firm, entrepreneurial approach to management (the vaccine) is the key to endurance. While it isn’t easy to achieve and/or maintain, it certainly bears considerable fruit.